Attempting to phase out a bad habit, or form a better one? Studies and brain research say that tiny improvements are the way to go and not just because it’s more realistic –our brains are wired for it. Use this toolkit to both learn about the science of habit change and stay inspired. We’ve also included a few apps that make staying on track a little easier.
Just 1 Thing Printable Tracker Download a printable tracker here. Note: Tracking is optional, but is both encouraged and will be useful to you when filling out the program completion form. You are welcome to use your own means of tracking as well.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
Be Thoughtful About your Goal
Setting a goal is the easy part. Setting a goal that you'll stick to is the challenge. Follow these tips to set yourself up for success.
Get specific. We recommend assigning a timeframe, distance or other relevant parameter to your goal. Doing so will help keep it simple, attainable and trackable. For example, if your goal is to meditate, reframe it as “Meditate for 5 minutes 20 times.” If your goal is to “cook 20 healthy dinners,” consider “cook 20 dinners that contain one non-starchy vegetable.” Or if you went with, “drink more water” or “walk more,” how much per day? Give it a shot and note the difference.
Challenge yourself. Specific and attainable does not mean easy. Your habit should be challenging you in some way – physically, emotionally, intellectually. If you find that it’s not, then you likely won’t reap the payoffs nor remain interested. That said, there’s still time to tweak. For example, if you chose to do 20 squats or sit-ups a day for 20 days and are finding the practice hasn’t been meaningful, you might consider increasing your reps in increments (add 2-5 reps a day). Don’t sell yourself short.
Keep yourself Interested
Track. Tracking means more than just ticking off that you’ve done something – it means writing down a few words about the experience. Did you feel better than the time before? Was it easier? Harder? Did you notice something new? Noting your progress helps keep the process interesting and you interested in your own progress.
Create an intentional reward. Many habits that seem to stick easily may signal our bodies’ built-in rewards system: the release of dopamine and other mood-enhancing chemicals. Our brains detect a positive association between the habit and reward, which makes continued practice easier. Create the same effect on our own by coupling your habit with something healthful that naturally releases dopamine (e.g. hugging your pet, listening to music, snacking on a piece of sweet fruit) to help spark that feel-good association.
Resist the urge to do too much too soon. Play the long game and stick to a sustainable pace. If you’d like to up your goal, increase your commitment in small increments only. In fact, research suggests that the secret of athletes who are able to get to the top and stay at the top, are those who stop short of one rep, sprint, drill, pitch, etc. In other words, they leave a little in the tank to fuel their continued motivation. The logic applies in reverse too – think about when you overdo/overeat something and feel you need a break. Stopping just short of maximum effort will also likely prevent negative outcomes like injury, excessive soreness and more.
Plan for failure to prevent failure. Take some time to consider what will prevent your habit from happening. What are some things that are likely to get in your way? How can you work around them?
Signs You may need to Make an Adjustment
Consider that in order to form a habit, you need to maintain a simple chain-reaction of motivational events: Excitement > Accomplishment > Payoff. If you’re not progressing or continue to put your practice on hold, it’s likely linked to one of these three stages:
Excitement: Loss of motivation occurs if your habit is not connected to a larger personal value. A value is something you personally need in order to live a happy, fulfilling life – i.e. joy, adventure, family, competition, creativity, learning, etc. Take a closer look at your goal. If you opted to do 100 sit-ups for 20 days, is it because you want to build core strength? If so, why? For aesthetics? To prevent back pain so that you can play with your children? Make sure your end goal is sufficiently linked to your personal requirements for living fully.
Accomplishment: If you’re not doing your Just 1 Thing, it may be because it’s too time consuming. If you can’t find the time to practice, you may need to rethink your time parameter. If you committed to walking for an hour a day and it’s not happening, try walking for 10 minutes. The point is not to see results each time, it’s to note the holistic changes and patterns in your well-being over time, which won’t happen unless you’re doing it consistently. The best Just 1 Thing is the one you’ll do.
Payoff: If you aren’t noting incremental improvements, your goal may be too aggressive, and if you’re not completing your practice each time, your results will be more difficult to track. If the idea of going to the gym 20 times during Just 1 Thing is overwhelming and not panning out, pull it back to something that will both minimize anxiety and enable you to complete it.
The popular diet and fitness social media app helps you keep track of your daily food and beverage intake by calculating your nutrients, calories and vitamins for you. It also provides suggested caloric and macro nutrient markers (fat, carbohydrate, protein) for your body type and goals.